What’s New for 2021/22 at Whitefish Mountain Resort
The team at Whitefish Mountain Resort is excited to unveil a few big improvements this winter, which we think will seriously improve the guest experience. Here’s a look at what’s new and in the works.
Better access to the Hellroaring Basin
We invested more than $2 million and spent the off-season dismantling Chair 8, picking up the towers with a helicopter and dropping them back into place a little farther up the mountain.
Why, you ask?
Well, if you recall how the lift was previously situated in the Hellroaring Basin, it wasn’t exactly living up to its potential. The location of the bottom terminal created a long outrun at the end of Hell Fire, and from the top of the lift, there were no clear trails back into the basin, meaning you were steered onto the front side of the mountain. The only way to reach the basin was to take a cat track from the summit.
Now the bottom terminal of Chair 8 is at Grand Junction, and the top is near the intersection of Toni Matt and Big Ravine. That means you can still hop onto the front side if you so choose, but now you’ll have the option of turning back into the basin on two of our newest runs — Wing and a Prayer (double black diamond) and Short but Sweet (blue square).
We think this new configuration will improve overall mountain traffic flow. And it will enable us to open the Hellroaring Basin earlier in the season; we won’t have to wait for decent snow accumulations at the lower elevation where the bottom terminal used to be.
As a bonus, we had one tower left over after relocating and shortening the lift, and we’re putting that hunk of metal to good use as a feature in one of our freestyle parks. What’s old will be new again.
A trip on the new Chair 8 lasts about seven minutes and covers 1,082 vertical feet.
New runs dedicated to local legends
The relocation of Chair 8 is just one part of a multiphase project aimed at improving access to the Hellroaring Basin and creating more opportunities in the area for intermediate skiers and riders.
The project started in 2020 when we regraded parts of Hell Fire and began clearing six new runs. Those include Wing and a Prayer and Short but Sweet, as well as Pat’s Ride, Lacy Lane, Chet’s ‘Stache and RadJack.
Those latter two runs are named after legends in the Whitefish skiing community, who we’re honoring with dedication ceremonies at the start of the season.
Chet’s ‘Stache honors Chet Powell, who spent more than 40 years at the resort, working his way up from ski patroller to director of mountain operations before retiring in 2019. Chet is known for his impressive salt-and-pepper mustache, and this new run is his favorite powder stash, so the name came easy.
RadJack is for none other than “Rad” Jack Marcial, the daredevil who helped popularize the art of telemark skiing in the 1970s. Jack, who passed away in 2018, called Whitefish home after moving his family here in 1987. The Marcials have been part of the Big Mountain family ever since, so it’s only right that we celebrate Jack with some of the best terrain in the basin.
More parking in Willow Tail, Aspen lots
We know parking can be a hassle on our busiest days, which is why we’ve added space for roughly 180 more vehicles in our Aspen and Willow Tail parking lots. Both lots are close to the Base Lodge, the Home Again ski way and our regular shuttle route.
Last winter, the Aspen lot had space for roughly 65 to 75 vehicles. We spent the summer and fall excavating to expand the lot at the back end, and we anticipate the lot will hold up to 125 vehicles starting this winter.
The Willow Tail lot used to hold roughly 180 to 200 cars, trucks and RVs. We cleared timber east of the lot to expand in that direction using fill material donated by local building contractors. We also graded the entire lot and pushed the top layer of dirt to expand around the edges. Now we anticipate the lot will hold up to 330 vehicles.
We want to emphasize that all these numbers are ballpark estimates. The actual number of vehicles we can fit into the lots depends on their size, how they’re parked and how well we’re able to plow. As always, we’ll send out staff when the mountain is busy to help our guests park efficiently.
And don’t forget: The best way to get here is to carpool or take the S.N.O.W. Bus, which offers free trips to and from the resort and downtown Whitefish.
New snowmaking guns on Chipmunk
Young skiers and riders and newcomers to snow sports deserve excellent conditions, too, so we’ve installed four new tower-mounted snowmaking guns along the east side of Chipmunk (under Chair 6). These will ensure we can open the run on time and maintain it with fresh snow throughout the season.
We also bought a fifth snowmaking gun to replace an older one that we use elsewhere on the mountain.
Ground prepped for new Chair 4
You’ve probably heard we’re installing our first high-speed sixpack chairlift, which will replace Chair 4 and shuttle guests from the Base Lodge area to the top of Inspiration Ridge in under seven minutes. It will be the first lift to stretch from the Base Lodge to the upper elevations of Big Mountain.
When the existing Chair 4 was installed in 1978, the Base Lodge didn’t exist and there were no runs below the bottom terminal of the lift.
Now, however, the Base Lodge is the primary portal to the mountain for most of our guests, and it’s where most of our parking area is located. Reaching the upper mountain terrain currently requires a trip on Chair 6 from the Base Lodge, followed by a trip on either Chair 1 to the summit or Chair 2.
The new Chair 4, the Snow Ghost Express, will offer a direct flight to the upper terrain without that layover, and help alleviate traffic on those other lifts by providing an alternative. It should also improve the skiing experience in the beginner area.
We’ve been busy moving dirt between the base of the existing Chair 4, the base of Chair 10 and the Big Easy Conveyor Carpet, modifying the terrain to accommodate changes in skier traffic when the bigger, better Chair 4 is installed next summer.
We anticipate the new Chair 4 will be open in time for the 2022-23 ski season.
New COVID-19 guidelines
As we look forward to another great ski season, we’re keeping the health and safety of our guests in mind and responding to COVID-19.
In accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we encourage all guests to wear masks or face coverings in crowded settings where social distancing can’t be maintained.
We strongly recommend all unvaccinated guests wear masks or face coverings indoors and in crowded settings. Signs will be posted around the resort to remind guests of this guidance.
Guests will not be required to wear masks, except when involved in a medical response or transport situation where they are in close contact with our ski patrollers.
Masks will be available in public areas around the resort, and hand sanitizer will be available at indoor facilities.
Passengers will be required to wear masks or face coverings while riding the S.N.O.W. Bus.
There will not be COVID-related occupancy limits or hosted seating in resort-managed food and beverage facilities.
Singles lines will be available at chairlifts. We can’t guarantee individual households will be able to ride the lift alone. Guests from different groups may be seated together to reduce wait times.
Finally, we’ll state the obvious: If you’re feeling sick or exhibiting any symptoms of COVID, please consider getting tested and skiing another day. There’s no reason to put others at risk.